City council approves cell phone ban

April 16, 2009 8:34:35 PM PDT
A unanimous vote of 17-0 Thursday drove home the ban for using handheld cell phones while driving in the city of Philadelphia.

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The measure passed city council Thursday morning and is now waiting to be signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter.

Once signed it will take effect immediately.

The legislation sponsored by council members Bill Green, Bill Greenlee and Frank Rizzo would require drivers to use hands-free cellular devices.

"A driver using a cell phone to dial a number or to send a text message is potentially as dangerous to others as a driver who has been drinking," said Councilman Bill Green. "They are simply not giving their full attention to the road and that puts us all at risk."

But, can such a local law be enforced? Nine years ago, a local ban was struck down in a Bucks County court.

The motor vehicle code is a state law that can only be changed by state lawmakers.

However, Philadelphia City Council members think the law will hold up, arguing its focus is public safety, not just motor vehicles.

AAA doesn't feel the ban goes far enough. They say, even with hands-free gear, complex conversations can impair drivers and lead to accidents.

"The more emotional the conversation, the more deeply engaged you are," said Cathy Rossi with AAA Mid-Atlantic. "The converstation is a distraction, not the device."

City council was to vote on the measure back on April 2nd, however lawmakers discovered some technical problems with the language in the bill.

The previously proposed bill included a ban on handheld phones while 'rollerblading'. They changed their choice of words from rollerblading to 'in-line skating' since Rollerblade is an inline skate manufacturer.

The legislation also includes a ban on use of handheld phones while on bicycles and skateboards.

Violators will face a $75 fine if caught with a cell phone in their hand.

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